Being More Than a Disability in a TV Show/Movie

Representation is something that people have been fighting for over the years, as they push for more diverse roles to appear in TV shows and movies. Recently, there have been more diverse stories that are appearing on our screens, along with people from different backgrounds playing these roles.

There has been an increase of people of color, LGBTQIA+ actors, and many others taking on lead roles and starring in big movies and TV shows. Even though there are more people taking on diverse roles, there is one part that is still not being given the representation that it deserves: disability. There are many people that live with a disability that deserve to see their story on TV or in movies. There are shows that have characters with disabilities, but the majority of them are played by actors that don’t have that particular disability. In fact, 95% of these characters have a disability, but only 2% of these roles are portrayed by actors with actual disabilities. Why are people with disabilities not being given that chance to act as a character like them? Some believe it is simply too complicated or the person may not be able to play the role because of their disability. There is also a mindset that “it’s acting” when it comes to portraying characters with disabilities. These mindsets are problematic as it discourages people with disabilities from taking on roles that are meant for them. That needs to change, as people with disabilities are capable of doing things that they set their mind to.    

Disability is an identity, not a costume or a makeup that people can wear easily. It is a crucial aspect of a person like race and gender. It has a role in creating the kind of person that we will grow up to be. It plays a role in how a person lives, communicates, and perceives the world. When abled-actors are portraying a character with a disability, usually they would follow people that have that disability and try to imitate what they do. The actors may think that they are portraying this disability or character correctly, but that is far from the truth. There are people that actually live with this disability, and may see that they are not being represented on the screen correctly. There are different disabilities that have a spectrum or aspects to it that people don’t realize. People with disabilities should be allowed to portray that character because they live with that disability and can connect with that character very well. They can bring a more authentic portrayal and really show the reality of living with that disability.

 The stories that we see on TV or in movies are what grab people’s attention to watch that feature. There are now more diverse stories that are being told compared to years ago. These stories bring visibility to the different identities and life problems that people have everyday. There have been stories about characters with disabilities, but there has been a problem with how they are shown as a character. Some tropes that portray people with disabilities have become repetitive and outdated now. There are have been characters portrayed as the villain, “naive and innocent,” or being a side character to the main story. There is a lot of stigma around disability and those tropes have only made the stigma more apparent. It makes people think that having a disability is the end of the world. It’s not. There are people with disabilities that have very successful lives. They have jobs, families, homes, and many other good things in their lives. Disability deserves to be in the spotlight because there are millions of people that live with a disability.

There have been movies/TV shows that have been about overcoming a disability, but they always tend to be sad. They don’t need to be sad along with being so focused on the disability itself. Disability doesn’t define the person. It’s a part of the person’s identity like race and gender. They don’t always need to be about overcoming the disability but they can talk about the struggles or usual problems that people with that disability might face. The stories that have characters with disabilities shouldn’t be just about their disability. They deserve to be shown as people that lead normal lives, but they have to work harder because of their disability. Their disability should be shown as a part of them, not being in the spotlight. There can be characters with disabilities that can play teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, students, and many other roles that can be showcased on the screen. They can also be characters that have never been thought of before such as being a princess, a wizard, a spy, a computer geek and so many other characters that draw in viewers. If movies and tv shows portray characters with disabilities this way, they will see more of themselves on the screen as there will be people with disabilities that can relate to the characters easily. Those characters should be played by actual actors with disabilities. That is the best way to bring authenticity to the characters.

Even though there are more diverse stories being told, there still needs to be representation of the disability community. People in the disability community deserve to see themselves on TV or in movies, because it gives them the validity and visibility that they deserve. There should be better access for aspiring actors with disabilities along with directors and producers giving them that chance. For a long time, many generations of people with disabilities weren’t given basic human rights. They were constantly shunned and stigmatized because some part of their body didn’t function “normally”. Today they have rights due to people before them that fought for those rights. If actors with disabilities are given those roles, they will be able to usher in a new movement and bring a new future for future generations. They will be able to show role models to many people out there and show that they can be anything despite having a disability. It can inspire them and show them that they can do it. For that to happen, the mindset against disability needs to be changed along with opening the playing field to people with disabilities. If people allow that to happen, it could bring a change for so many people along with future generations. If that happens, one day there might be a little girl with cochlear implants whose face will light up when she sees a princess on her screen that has cochlear implants like her.

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